100 years ago the peace talks between Soviet Russia and the German Empire collapsed and the Germans accupied mainland Estonia (but not the islands). The Estonian National Council Maapäev issued an Estonian Declaration of Independence on 23 February, 1918. It was read to the people from the balcony of the Endla Theatre in Pärnu at eight o’clock in the evening but not until next morning, Estonia was publicly proclaimed as an independent and democratic republic. It was the 24 February 2018.
There was not yet a happy ending, however. Next day, German troops entered Tallinn. The German authorities recognised neither the provisional government, nor its claim for Estonia’s independence, counting them as a self-styled group usurping sovereign rights of the German-Baltic nobility.
Imperial germany was crushed in the First World War and Estonian was free from 1920. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Estonia was invaded first by Soviet and then by Germany and then by Soviet again, who made it a Soviet Union until 1991.
Estonia is a strange country: they sing a lot, they don’t go to church, there much more women than men (100/84) and they have 800 islands more than hitherto believed. The official number of Estonian islands now stands at 2,355 if you count islands in lakes.
This is one third more than previously believed and due to improved survey methods showing that Estonia has a total of 2,355 islands and islets, instead of the previously held 1,521.
However, only 318 of these are larger than 1 hectare, or 10,000 square meters.
Agnes Jürjens from the Land Board says improved technology allowed researchers to succesfully map small, previously unaccounted for islets and holms. “In addition, the ground has risen in northern and western Estonia, and the changing water level, as well as storms, can also alter the coastline,” she explained.
The news might come as further blow to neighboring Latvia, which has a famously low number of islands, officially at 1, and that too is man-made. Latvia did issue claims to Runö = Ruhnu at the beginning of last century, but the island, which lies closer to Latvia than Estonia, was added to Estonia in 1919.
One way to reach Estionian islands is on the ice roads used in winter. It is an unusual “fixed link” and a beautiful experience.